It is common to suggest that Iran’s anti-government Green Movement is all but dead, an unfortunate casualty of the Islamic Republic’s efficient and ruthless apparatus of suppression. But the Green Movement’s successes are noteworthy and continuing: It has not just fractured the state, with many of the regime’s staunch loyalists defecting to the opposition, but also captured the imagination of Iran’s youth and its burdened middle class. Popular agitation goes on, albeit on a smaller scale, as Iran remains a land of work stoppages and rebellious universities. As was true with Solidarity in Poland, Iran’s Greens are worthy of receiving material and moral support, which will have the twin advantages of paving the way for a democratic transition in the long run and providing Washington with a lever to temper Iran’s nuclear ambitions in the short term. As was true with the Soviet Union, we will never make progress on arms-control issues with the Islamic Republic until its grip on power seriously starts to erode.
Another feature of the pressure policy must be encirclement of Iran by American bases and allies. Efforts to turn the Arab Gulf states into an anti-Iranian alliance should be augmented with further deployment of American naval and military forces on Iran’s periphery. Instead of responding to Iran’s proxy war against U.S. forces in Afghanistan with pleas for cooperation, the administration should exclude Tehran from all conclaves and meetings plotting the future of that country.